Major Frank Burns...

I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen every episode of MASH yet, but for those of you who have…

All the other major characters certainly had their goofy moments, but they also had their poignant ones too - even Hotlips. Did we ever get to see another side of Frank, or was he always the one-dimensional whiny doofus that I remember him being?

And whatever happened to him anyway?

IIRC, in the television series, Frank went insane and did something weird (I can’t remember what) in a hot tub in Japan . . . or something like that. Anyway, he went nuts and got replaced by Charles Winchester the Third.

I think he went nuts in the movie as well.

I want to say that in the TV series he did some nice sweet stuff on rare occasion, but I really can’t remember anything off the top of my head.

The only one I remember is in the episode where Margaret gets married.

After she’s left on her honeymoon, Frank goes off the deep end and goes out trying to become a war hero. He brings in some Korean villagers claiming they’re spies. When Col. Potter lets them go he starts ranting and pacing around the office, more or less holding Potter, Hawkeye and B.J. at gun point. Radar puts through a phone call to Franks mother. Talking to her, Frank breaks down, lamenting his loss of Margaret, and the fact that he’s never had any friends.


No, no, no. He says “I had a friend who only pretended to be my friend. You know, like Dad used to.”

I can’t belive I remember that.

Anyway, pretty damn poignant.

Immediately after the “like Dad used to” episode, Burns went off nuts again (the implication was that he’d been given leave time in Seoul) and the other character heard about his antics indirectly, which included diving into a hot-tub occupied by a General and a blonde woman who Burns mistook for Margaret but was actually the General’s, ahem, secretary. The final upshot is that Burns is promoted and rotated back to the states, for seemingly no other reason than to piss off Pierce and Hunnicut, and make some petty comedic point about the army beaurocracy. Larry Linville doesn’t appear in this or any later episode and David Ogden Stiers was waiting in the wings to replace him.

Frank Burns is actually the main reason I dislike MASH*. Sure he was a dork, but the attitudes of the other characters were bullying and unnecessarily cruel. It’s even worse in the movie when Burns (played in the film by Robert Duvall) is openly ridiculed for his bedside praying. For praying. I’m an atheist, but I’d consider ridiculing the simple act of prayer to be one of the lowest-class asshole things one can do. As a result, I lost all sympathy for the Pierce character, as I would in any movie when the “too cool for school” character acts mean to another character and is somehow expected to inspire giggling awe as a result.

I recall one episode in which Burns starts playing pranks back on Pierce, and doing a charming job, but the big episode punchline was Pierce’s final revenge, which ruined the whole thing.

In the pilot episode, Burns was more reserved, with far fewer traces of the finicky, cowardly personality that would later develop. After one of Pierce’s disrespcetful moments, Burns made some throat-clearing gesture or whatnot in a pefectly reasonable attempt to prompt the Colonel, Henry Blake, to discipline Pierce. In that episode, and that episode only, Blake tells Pierce “[Burns] is a good surgeon and we need him.” All later episodes would present Burns as an incompetent quack, which flatly contradicted other moments when they spoke of the 4077th survival rate at 90%+. I don’t see how they could possibly maintain that if one-fourth of their surgical staff was such a contemptible bumbler.

It was the nature of the early seasons to be somewhat juvenile, and some episodes seem little more than medical versions of Animal House. Only later on did it become more maudlin and serious, as Larry Linville left (as well as other married characters who were carrying on affairs) and Alan Alda took greater creative control. Pierce would still sleep around, as he had in the early seaons, but now he was all sensitive about it.

At least when Burns was replaced by Winchester, the foil character could fight back, and there was no question of the foil’s surgical abilities.

It prompted the great line from Duke: “Colonel, fair is fair. If I nail Hot Lips and punch Hawkeye, can I go home??” as Burns was being taken away in straight-jacket.

After Margaret gets married and is flying away in a chopper (with the groom in a body cast in the pod), the final shot of the episode is of Frank staring longingly at the sky and saying, “Good-bye, Margaret.” :frowning:

Larry Linville died of cancer recently. (In answer to what happened to him)

People tried to leave the show but were contractually obligated. From interviews I’ve seen, most of the main actors disliked much of the show and saw very little return from it at the time.

Larry Linville died about 2 years ago, IIRC.

“Frank Burns eats worms.”

So long, ferret face.

I agree with Brian Ekars up there. I always thought the way the rest of the ‘cool’ characters picked on Burns to be atrocious.

OK, he was a weenie. But he, like the rest of them, was trapped in a war zone and wanted to be home (I’m picking up subtext here). Does that give them an excuse for picking on him?

It was a poorly drawn character. There could have been much more done with it.

Your missing the point. He was ridiculed not for praying, but for using prayer as a way to cover for his mistakes and attack others. Duvall’s Burns was a hypocrite through and through (and a psychotic one at that); the praying was was a pious little show that Forrest and Pierce saw through immediately.

MAS*H the movie was, at least partialy, aired as a Viet Nam war protest and the Burns character was the guy who loved the war. As such he was fair game for everyone else. As poorly as this comes across, it really did fit in with the near slapstick mood of the early seasons. This character carried over into the series.

Winchester’s character was, as has been mentioned, much better written. He was still the but of jokes but he could and did fight back. Occasionally he was even a co-conspirator with BJ and or Hawkeye.

I remember an interview with Linville, in which he was asked this very question. His reply was that he was playing a character that was essentially a technical device, and if they had allowed the character to grow as they did the others, the usefulness as a technical device would have been lost.

I’d take that answer with a large grain of salt - at the start of the series, Hotlips was a one-dimensional technical device used to motivate the gags, too. They let Loretta Swit develop the character into Margaret. And I agree that the show got far stronger when they brought in Winchester as a three-dimensional character and a far more formidable foil for Hawkeye.

They should have folded the tent went Burghoff left, though.


Radar, to me, was one of the weakest characters in the show, especially towards the end. He was the one who REALLY didn’t seem to grow. As time went one, it semed that the character of Radar somehow became MORE naive.

I was at a talk that Larry Linville gave in the late 80’s; (how’s that for a thread tie-in) and he was asked what Burghoff was thinking in his characterization of Radar. The answer he gave gave me the impression that he didn’t think too highly of Gary’s skills as an actor, and that most of the rest of the cast felt the same way (something along the lines of ‘Gary was off in his own little world’. It’s been at least 15 years. Forgive me if that I don’t remember the exact quote)

Gary Burghoff was disliked by the entire cast! It seems he had a bit of an ego since he was the only one who was in both the movie and the TV series that he felt he should be the only one to have “creative input” on the show. Wayne Rogers left the show because he was making more money as a stock broker than he was from the series. Personally, I began to dislike the series when Alda had almost total control over it, and the episodes stopped being comedic satires and became warm and fuzzy feeling fests.